Porto, Portugal to Vila Franca de Xira, Portugal

From 21/09/2015 to 27/09/2015

Day 1 – Maastricht to Porto, Portugal – Cycling 10kms

We were up early, very anxious to get underway on our new adventure. Everything was packed the night before, the bikes a couple of days earlier.
We were happy that our good friend Pierre had taken the time from his busy schedule to drive us the +/-100kms to Eindhoven airport. We arrived at 10:00 for our 13:30 flight but with a short delay we ended up leaving at 14:00. Everything went like clockwork, great flight and all the baggage arrived in good order.
The 10km ride to the closest camping Orbitur-Angeiras was uneventful and after setting up we had a few beers to relax before going to the camping restaurant for dinner.

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Our good friend Pierre had appropriately brought his horse trailer to carry our bikes.
Pierre runs a small family oriented camping on his farm about 15kms from us, between Maastricht and Aachen, Germany. http://www.kloostermuur.nl/

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Our whole setup consisted of the 2x bike boxes, 2x handle bar bags, 2x rear panniers and 2x dufel bags with the rest of our panniers.
We had made sure that the weight limit’s were met at home so there weren’t any issues.

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The boarding system at Eindhoven airport.

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It’s probably very efficient but we could not help but feel like cattle.

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After collecting our baggage we found a quiet corner in the airport to set up our gear.

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And just over an hour we were ready for our new adventure.

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We were happy to finally set up camp, before heading off for something to eat.

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Our first camping spot of this tour.

Day 2 – Camping Orbitur-Angeiras to Parque de Campismo Orbitur Sao Jacinto – 93kms

What a fantastic first day of cycling, we could have not wished for more. Sunny weather, not too warm, strong tail wind and 95% of the day we cycled along car free cycling paths. Also about half of the ride was through pine woods. The smell of the ocean mixed with pine was just heavenly.
We hate going through city’s and last night we thought it would be difficult to cycle through Porto but it could have not gone smoother.
About 17:00 we started looking for a camping and about an hour later we found one near Dunas de S. Jacinto.

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By 09:00 we got on the road and headed straight for the ocean.

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Enjoying the ride next to the ocean.

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We rode along nice cycling paths towards Matosinhos.

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Loving the Portuguese sun.

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We did pas along an industrial area but it was on a cycling path.

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Nearing Matosinhos.

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By this time it was beging to warm up and the long sleeve shirt had to come off

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After Matosinhos we came across the small 17th-century clifftop castle, Queijo Castle. Click to view larger.

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Riding next to Av. do Brasil heading for Porto.

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And soon after we reached the mouth of the Rio Douro. Click to view larger.

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Heading East along the Rio Douro looking for a place to cross. This is the A1 bridge, no bike alowed.

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Prince Henry the Navigator (1394 -1460)

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The bridge we used to cross the Rio Douro. And the hordes of tourists.

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Porto in all its glory. We crossed the Rio Douro on the Luis I Bridge. Click to view larger.

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Cycling path on the South bank of the Rio Duoro heading for the ocean.

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Beautiful granite rock formation along the coast.

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Capela do Senhor da Pedra.

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Having a coffee in Aguda.

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This was a walking path that we cycled on, on the way to Espinho. Probably not allowed but it was really nice cycling through the dunes. Click to view larger.

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The great cycling paths through the coastal pine woods.

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After years of touring we finally wised up and bought a couple Helinox, lightweight camping chairs. They were expensive but turned out to be the best buy we’ve made.

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Enjoying a nice Portuguese beer, Super Bock while watching the sun set. We tried to find the ocean but it was just too far and we were in no mood to hike 1.5km back to camp through the wooded sand dunes in the dark. That ocean sunset would have to wait.

Day 3 – Parque de Campismo Orbitur Sao Jacinto to Parque de Campismo de Quiaios – 68kms

Got up early again but took our time getting on the road. We made our way to Sao Jacinto and found were the ferry was supposed to be, but we’ve just missed it by 10 minutes.  The next one would not leave for another couple of hours so we took this opportunity to do some shopping at the local mini market.
After getting off the ferry we continued south along great cycling paths for the first +/-20kms but then when we got on the Estr. Florestal 1, the worst road we’ve ever ridden on. The surrounding countryside was fantastic but the road was really bad.
When we finally reached the camping we were too tired (shook up) from the ride to find the beach which was about 300m from our camp. So our great ocean sunset with beer/wine will have to wait another day. Again the weather was perfect with clear sunny weather and a good tail wind.

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On the N327 heading for the ferry at Sao Jacinto.

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And Monique in my rear view mirror.

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Enjoying the sun while waiting for the ferry.

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We were amazed at how new and clean everything was. The Portuguese were really investing a lot of money on the tourist infrastructure.

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On the A25 bridge over the Ria de Aveiro looking south.

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New bridge and cycling path perfect and safe cycling.

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Heading south along the Ria de Aveiro towards Bairro dos Pescadores.

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A new and beautiful neighborhood between Ria de Aveiro and the Atlantic ocean. Click to view larger.

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The marshes of the Ria de Aveiro.

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The quiet road continued south between the marshes and sand dunes.

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Praia do Areao.

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Praia do Areao.

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Beautiful water flowers  growing on the shores of Barrinha near Praia de Mira.

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The begining of Extr. Florestal 1 was good, so we thought this is going to be a great ride through the woods.

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And it was for the smooth sections of the road.
We had seen many side tracks leading to the beach and thought of wild camping on the coast but we were ill prepared. We had plenty of food but no water.
If we’re ever in this area again we will explore these wooded areas more thoroughly.

Sunny day, beautiful area, headphones on and Monique is a happy girl 😉

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But for most of the way the road was really rough. Mind you that we would not hesitate to ride it again, the surrounding area was just beautiful.

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Enjoying a quiet beer at Parque de Campismo de Quiaios.

Day 4 – Parque de Campismo de Quiaios to Parque de Campismo da Praia de Pedrogao – 61kms

Another great day full of adventure. This morning we woke up to thick fog visibility down to about 30 meters. We cycled out of town sticking close to the ocean until we came to this 20% climb were we had to walk the bikes. Once on top we continued climbing until finally the road disappeared and we were on a very rough track on the side of a cliff, we could hear the waves far bellow but could not see them. This lasted for what seemed like a couple kms till we reached the N109-8 which we followed downhill into Figueira da Foz.
In Ggueira da Foz we got some supplies than stopped for our second breakfast on the banks of the Rio Mondego.
After crossing the Rio Mondego we stayed on the N109 (quite busy but a wide shoulder) for about 20kms before heading towards the coast again. Afterwards the weather cleared up, the sun came out and it got quite warm. At Matos do Carrico we turned off the N109 on the R.da Mata do Urso and headed for the coast.
As we neared the camping this fog rolled in again and we thought there goes another sunset but as fast as it rolled in it rolled out again.

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A foggy start to the day.

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We thought of cycling along this path but decided against it, mainly because we could not see where it ended.

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On the rough track high above the waves.

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At one point we did catch a glimpse of the coastline below the cliffs.

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But we were happy to see some asphalt of the N109-8.

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Another great cycling path leading to Figueira de Foz. At least our tax Euros are being used the right way.

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The very high bridge over the Rio Mondego. A bit hairy to get onto as we had to ride for a 100m or so with heavy traffic, but just before we got on the N109 there was a break at the crash barrier for cyclists to get off the road. Click to view larger.

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For most of the way we had a wide shoulder to ride on. But passing through this industrial are I did get a puncture in my front tire. Forgot to take a picture.

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The lovely little church where we stopped for lunch. It’s on the R. da Mata do Urso (right) about 700m from the N109.

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A picture of our lunch so you get an idea of what a touring cyclist needs to keep going. A thick sandwich with butter and Mortadela, washed down with a nice tea, followed by cookies for desert and an apple for a fruit.

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Enjoying our lunch in some shade.

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On the R. da Mata do Urso heading for the coast.

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We had never expected to find such great cycling paths in Portugal.

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Looking back inland from atop a high sand dune.

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Cycling nirvana.

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We started to see a lot of pine sap being harvested.

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Just loved this area.

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The cycling path was so smooth I started to hear the little squeak’s from the chains so I stopped and oiled them.

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After setting up camp we rode into town to find a place to eat and catch the sunset. We weren’t disappointed. Our first sunset over the ocean in a very long time.
We were told of a little place called Restaurante Esplananda Mares Vivas on the beach, that had exceptional food so we checked it out. If your there check it out highly recommended.

Day 5 – Parque de Campismo da Praia de Pedrogao to Parque de Campismo Baia Azul – 63kms

Today started out great with about 40kms of great cycling to Nazare. We also saved a poor cat that was laying by the side of the road. Right after Paredes Velhas on the Sao Pedro de Moel – Pataias Monique heard a faint cat cry. We stopped and looked down at the very dehydrated cat, she had a broken rear leg which was shaven and bandaged. Apparently she was seen to by a vet. So I got on the road when we saw a couple of campers and a little van pass by and I flagged them down. We managed to convince the Portuguese driver of the van to take the cat to the nearest vet clinic or police station for help. It would be a shame to just let it die there on the side of the road. We thanked him and continued on our way. We hope the little guy made it.
We continued on to the very touristic hill top town of Nazare but were put off by all the tour-buses and hundreds of people running around the we just cycled right through. A little further on we tried to avoid this difficult hill so we got on the N242 which was busy and didn’t have a shoulder.
We were glad the Portuguese drivers were so courteous as we stayed on the N8 all the way to Sao Martinho do Porto.

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The beginning of the beautiful Estr. Florestal road with it’s great cycling path.

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Were we came from,

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and were we heading.

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A wider view of this beautiful area we rode through. Click to view larger.

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It was truly amazing cycling here.

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Praia da Concha. Click to view larger.

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Farol Penedo da saudade.

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Closing in on Nazare, seen in the distance.

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We just stopped long enough to take one picture and that’s of the Church of Nossa Senhora da Nazare.

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One last look at Nazare from the N242.

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When traffic was light the N242 wasn’t that bad.

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The beautiful promenade of Sao Martinho do Porto. Click to view larger.

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Our camp at Parque de Campismo Baia Azul.

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We just loved it being here out of season. If anyone is thinking of cycling in Portuga, September is the time to be here.
The ocean is still warm and there are very few tourists.

Day 6 – Parque de Campismo Baia Azul to Vila Franca de Xira – 75kms

The day started out gray and cool, which was perfect for us because we had some hills to negotiate. The plan was to avoid Lisbon so we needed to cut inland and head towards Vila Franca de Xira on the Tagus river where there was a municipal camping.
Our first hurdle was the city of Caldas da Rainha which was busy to say the least. After Caldas da Rainha we got on the N115 and the climbing started immediately. There were several hills today but nothing very difficult but we did get a good workout. Later on we got on the N1 which we followed all the way to Vila Franca de Xira.
We saw many prostitutes today, it wasn’t the first time we saw them in Portugal but everywhere there’s wooded area and a lot of traffic they are stationed every kilometer or two. Totally in the open some just laying there on foldable lounges sunbathing.

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On the N8 heading into Caldas da Rainha.

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Cresting another hill on the N115.

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We don’t know what this is, we tried google but no village with this name so we gather it’s an are or district as many villages in this part begin with Casal do …..

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Many tractors passed us on the way to this wine making facility near Salgueirinha on the N115.

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On the N1-5 next to Serra de Montejunto.

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This was the reason for my second flat, the first being a piece of wire.

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Roadside repairs.

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All the ladies for hire were along these wooded areas on the N1. We respect what they do for money and out of that respect we chose not to take any pictures of them.
We just didn’t feel right, they are still people, not animals in a zoo.

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The closer we got to Vila Franca de Xira the traffic picked up.

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The municipal camping at Vila Franca was on the side of a hill and we had to walk the bikes up this short but very steep hill.
The bridge over the Tagus River that we need to cross tomorrow can be seen in the back ground.

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The chef at work. Notice the clothes line. The wind made cooking a real challenge. The couple on the left side of the picture are a couple that cycled from Germany and heading to Lisbon for their flight home. We didn’t chat much, they weren’t that talkative.

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 We had a huge lunch so dinner was simple this evening.
My special omelet. You can keep it simple with just a few eggs, a can of tomatoes cut up in cubes, than add anything else you like, bacon, mushrooms, etc…

Part II – Villa Franca de Xira, Portugal to Camping Playa Taray, Spain.